Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crockpot Beef with Mushroom Gravy

This is a healthy version of a classic comfort food, beef with gravy, loaded with lots of mushrooms and onions.  If you don't like mushrooms and onions, leave them out and you'll still have a great base for a delicious gravy.  We LOVE mushrooms, so I included a lot of them sine they cook down so much.  Again, you can use less or none at all.   Serve this meal with healthy versions of your favorite sides, such as lightened up mashed potatoes, steamed peas, roasted brussel sprouts - any winter comfort food.  

Let's talk portion control for a minute.  Even though some of these recipes are lower in fat and calories that other versions, you still need to watch how much you would eat at one sitting.  I like to make sure that half of my meal is vegetables.  I don't want/need to eat more than 1 cup of a particular veggie at a time, (unless it is a big salad), so that's why I like to cook two or three different ones.  And if you cook them with little to no oil, then they are VERY low in calories.  Then 1/4 of the plate is meat, 1/4 or less is starch.  That's how I maintain portion control with these dishes. 

Back to the beef...I started looking for crockpot ideas with london broil, a cut of beef shoulder, since I had one in the freezer.  London broil is a very lean cut of meat, so it often has the bad reputation of being tough if not cooked properly.  I always had it marinated and grilled growing up, but this is a great alternative for tender meat on a cold, snowy, or rainy day.  I came across this recipe idea but it had canned soup and that's not exactly part of the Healthy Home Revolution.  So I decided to just cook up something on my own.

It was delicious!!!  The beef was falling apart tender, it had great flavor, and the gravy was amazing.  Served with lightened up mashed potatoes, peas, roasted asparagus, and roasted brussel sprouts, it made for a meal I will crave again.  Total comfort food, with the fat and calories trimmed. 

Happy Cooking!

Crockpot Beef with Mushroom Gravy
An original recipe inspired by classic comfort food
2 lbs of London Broil, or beef shoulder steak, all fat trimmed
2 cups of beef broth or beef stock (I have this organic beef base that you mix with water from Whole Foods)
2 cloves of garlic, minced (I used my garlic press)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium onion, cut in half and them sliced
2 - 8 oz pkgs of sliced portabella mushrooms (16 oz total)

Place the steaks on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Place the sliced onions and mushrooms on top and pour the beef broth over that. 
Steaks with seasonings
after I added the other ingredients
Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.  Remove the steaks and shred or slice them up.

After only 3 hours the mushrooms cooked down so much
And the final product - lots of yummy broth.
Now its time to take that yummy cooking liquid and make a gravy.  You can easily skip this step and just enjoy the broth as an au jus.  However, my hubby really likes gravy, so I delivered.  Take a frying pan over medium heat and make a roux by melting 2T of butter until is starts to become frothy (be careful not to burn it).  Add 2T of flour and whisk until flour and butter is combined.  Continue to whisk for 1-2 minutes until flour is golden in color.  Add about 1/2 the broth from the crockpot, saving the other half to keep the meat in.  (To make this step easier, I took the meat out along with most of the mushrooms & onions using a slotted spoon.  Don't worry if some of the mushrooms & onions get in the frying pan.  You'll still be able to whisk it).  Whisk until smooth.  Bring to a boil and continue to whisk occasionally until it thickens to your liking.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Now add the mushrooms & onions, as many as you desire in your gravy.  Turn off the heat and serve immediately over the sliced beef and mashed potatoes.  Enjoy!

Cooking note:  There are three ways to thicken up the liquid and I consider all to be healthier than store bought canned soup:  make a roux, a cornstarch slurry, or use arrow root.  Either way, the first two methods are based on a 1 to 1 ratio, either 2 T oil/butter to 2 T flour, or 2 T cornstarch to 2 T water.  The only difference is that you make a roux over the heat, then add the liquid (I gave details to that approach above).  With a cornstarch slurry, pour the cooking liquid in a pan and bring to a boil.  Mix up the slurry, then add the slurry to broth continuing to boil.  Continue to cook until thickened.  This is traditional used in Asian sauces, but I've seen it used in other sauces and gravies instead.  I have absolutely no experience with arrow root, but I've seen Giada use it in a few recipes.

Our sides: asparagus, brussel sprouts, peas, and mashed potatoes

The plate before the mushroom gravy...

And with the mushrooms gravy.  Yummy!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

My husband's favorite dish to order at an Italian restaurant is chicken parmesan.  It definitely falls into the category of the top ten most unhealthy things to order, so I wanted to come up with something that would resemble that familiar favorite. I started searching and came across a recipe and was totally inspired.   

One word: YUMMY!   This Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf tastes like a cross between all that chicken parmesan goodness and one big chicken meatball.  Either way, it was a HUGE hit with the entire family.  Even the baby was inhaling it.  And the toddler asked to have the leftovers in his lunchbox tomorrow.  Success!

Happy Cooking!

Okay, the one thing that is bothering me SO much is the one little piece of carrot that somehow found its way on top of my meatloaf in EVERY picture!  Please forgive that oversight.  I'm sure it bothers me more that it bothers you.
Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf
recipe adapted from
2 lbs ground chicken (I used 1 lb of the regular ground chicken and 1 lb of ground chicken breast)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small onion, grated (grating makes it undetectable, but finely chopped is fine too)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Combine the ground chicken, eggs, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese in a large bowl, being careful note to over-mix. Place the mixture in the pan and form into a loaf. Top the meatloaf with pasta sauce and bake for 1 hour.

Here's the meatloaf, pre-baked, before the sauce hits the top.
Remove the meatloaf from the oven and sprinkle the top with the mozzarella cheese. Place it back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.  I kept it at 350 degrees for 10 minutes and then turned the broiler on for a few minutes, keeping a close eye on it (always a challenge when trying to keep an eye on the little ones too).  Allow the meatloaf to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Looks soooo good!

Couldn't decide which picture I liked better.

And of course we served our meatloaf with lots of veggies, including this lovely green salad.

Some whole grain penne with marinara, steamed broccoli, and salad on the side.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Working on my fitness

I had a fantastic and much needed dinner out with a good friend of mine.  Sometimes you just need some girlfriend time to make you feel refreshed and renewed.  But since I went out, I have no new recipes for you tonight.  How about some more workout ideas??? 

Here are a few links to some great at-home workouts to get your fitness on.

Happy fitness!

A 20 minute, total body workout in 8 moves from Women's Health Magazine.
(some equipment is needed, but you can improvise and make it work without)

A great cardio workout in as little as 10 minutes.  Go through it more than once to increase your total time or add on another workout.

And I LOVE this one!  A circuit training workout for each major muscle group.  Again, another quick one, but you can go through it twice or add on another workout to make it longer.

To round things out, some great ab moves.

And next week, I promise a workout or two for those pregnant women out there!  It's good to stay active during your pregnancy, but there are a few important things to remember:  stay hydrated, modify the moves so that they don't put extra pressure on your joints, no twisting your abs, no laying on your back, use great caution when balancing on one leg, use lighter weights than usual, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting.  Stay tuned for more pre-natal tip and exercises.  Until next time!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Meatless Monday - Mediterranean Feast

We love Mediterranean food and have it often at home.  The things we prepare are mostly vegetarian, so why not have them on Meatless Monday???

So here's whats on my dinner menu: baked falafel patties, whole wheat pita bread and pita chips, cilantro lime hummus, sliced veggies, tabouli, and garlicky sauteed baby greens.  So yummy!  Always a home run around here. 

To be completely honest, it was the very first time I've ever made hummus.  I know!  Unbelievable, but I always just purchase it pre-made from the store.  Now that I've done it, I'm never going back.  It was super simple and tasted SOOOO much better.  Now I can play around with all the flavors too.  The hummus was really great - so fresh tasting, and you couldn't pick out the lime and cilantro flavors. 

The tabouli was store bought, although I have made it several times from scratch (sorry - I haven't posted that recipe yet).  I prefer the Good Neighbors brand.  I sliced some of our favorite veggies to dip in the hummus,  and set out a few whole wheat pita wedges and chips. 

The trick to preparing the falafels was to make them yummy without deep frying, as most are.  The falafel patties were not from scratch, but I found a new mix that is now my favorite.  It doesn't dry out and has no weird additives or preservatives that I couldn't identify.  I've tried cooking falafels a number of different ways at home, none of them deep fried.  Even though I love them pan fried, it still uses more oil than I would like.  So then came baking - most recipes or mixes dry out and crumble up - gross!  These were great!!!  My perfected baking method is an excellent substitute to pan frying or deep frying and I used less than 1/4 cup of oil for 10 falafel patties. 

Lastly, the sauteed greens were an add on because I always like my meal to be at least half vegetables.  Plus, we love sauteed greens and haven't had them at dinner in a while.

Happy Cooking!

Hummus with Lime & Cilantro
Original recipe, inspired by several recipes I found:

1 can (15.5 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic, minced (I used my garlic press)
2 T tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice of 1/2 lime
2 T fresh cilantro
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup water
more olive oil for drizzling
The cast of characters
Place everything in a food processor, starting with only 1/4 cup of the water.  Pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, and add more water if necessary. 
This is what the finished product looks like - so fresh and yummy!
Place in a decorative bowl and drizzle with 1 T olive oil.  Serve at room temperature or cold with fresh veggies, pita chips, or pita bread.  Enjoy!

Baked Falafel Patties
1 pkg of falafel mix, follow the directions on the package regarding how much water to add
1/4 cup of olive oil (although you probably won't use it all)
cooking spray

So here is the mix I found in my grocery store - new to me.  Never tried it before, and it was the best I've tried at home.  Highly recommend!!!

The trick to baked falafels is to form patties, not the balls that are traditionally dropped in the deep fryer.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Scoop the falafel mix out and drop onto sheet, forming a patty, (about 2 -3T of mix per patty).  I have an olive oil carafe that allows me to slowly drizzle limited amounts of olive oil.  If you have one, use this.  If not, use a oil mister or even a basting brush to help you evenly distribute the olive oil.   Lightly drizzle or brush some olive oil on each patty.  Bake at 400 for 8 min.  Flip patties, drizzle or brush on more olive oil and broil on low until golden brown, as pictured below.

At this point you could flip and try another couple minutes under the broiler, but I was afraid of the patties drying out.

Serve with a side of tahini, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber.  Or make a falafel pita with 1/2 pita, 1-2 patties, 1-2T tahini, lettuce, tomato, onion and other toppings to taste (I've had pickles, cucumbers, feta, olives, the possibilities are endless).

Garlicky Sauteed Greens
1 pkg of greens (16 oz), your choice
1 small clove of garlic, minced (or more if you really like garlic)
salt to taste
cooking spray
These are new greens my store just started carrying - had to try, but baby kale and baby spinach are some of my favorites.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds to a minute.  Do not over saute or burn.  Add the greens, sprinkle with salt and turn in the pan as they begin to wilt.  You may need to add the greens in stages if they do not all fit.  Once they have all wilted, take off the heat and serve immediately.

So Finally - a picture of the feast!  So yummy and so many flavors.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meal Makeover - Healthier Fish Fry

Growing up Catholic in the North East, we used to have fish fries every Friday during lent.  As you move around the country, you see that "fish fries" aren't that big in other areas.  I craved them while I was pregnant with baby #1 in Miami and I couldn't find one anywhere!  I had to go to the golf coast of Florida, where many of the retired "snow birds" lived.  There I could find one on nearly any early bird special.  Ha!  Now that I live in Boston, I'm back in business.

Fish & chips or fish fries are a very popular thing around here and I ate them quite often when pregnant with baby #2.   But we all know that fried fish with tartar sauce, fried potatoes, and mayonnaise laden coleslaw is not the healthiest of meals.   I haven't had one in a long time, at least not since I've diligently been trying to loose my baby weight.  So with fresh, sustainable, wild caught seafood on sale at my local Whole Foods Market, I thought I would give a healthier fish "fry" a try.   Today I used cod, but haddock would work well for this too.  I did not deep fry anything - pan fried the fish in a few tablespoons of olive oil, oven baked the french fries, and made a lighter version of coleslaw that will make this meal come full circle.  And I promise you won't feel like you are missing out on anything!  I even made a low-fat and healthier version of tartar sauce, cause if you're like me, everything tastes better slathered in a condiment.

It was family approved!  Even the kiddos ate the fries and the fish, (I made one of fish with no breading for the baby).  After he was done eating, I asked my husband if he could tell that any part of his meal was low calorie.  He said NO - Success!!!  Don't tell them and they can't tell the difference.  The best part -MY fish fry craving was satisfied indeed!

I hope that you enjoy these recipes and give them a try really soon!
Happy Cooking!

Low-cal Coleslaw
Original recipe inspired by
1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I used olive oil mayonnaise cause that is what I had)
1/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup 2% greek yogurt
2 T granulated sugar
2 T white vinegar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pkg (16 oz) of coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots) - you can shred your own cabbage and carrots if you want, but this is a HUGE time saver

First make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients except for coleslaw mix.  Once the sugar is dissolved and dressing ingredients well incorporated, add the coleslaw mix and stir until dressing is evenly distributed.  Allow to sit in fridge for 2 hours up to overnight.  The longer the better. 

Hand-cut Seasoned Baked Fries
Original recipe inspired by
4 baking potatoes, cut into wedges or slices (depending on how thick or thin you like your fries.  I cut mine to be similar to a steak fry)
3 T olive oil
1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder
1/2 tsp salt and more for after they come out of the oven (sprinkle to taste)

Mix together olive oil and seasonings in a large bowl.  Add the potato wedges and toss to coat.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and place potatoes in a single layer.  Bake at 400 for 20 min, flip and bake an additional 20 min or until golden brown and tender.  (I flipped mine one more time and baked an additional 10 minutes because I like well done fries.)  After they come out of the oven, sprinkle with salt to taste if desired and toss.  Served immediately.

Tartar Sauce - revamped
Original recipe
1/3 greek yogurt
1/4 olive oil mayonnaise
1 T capers, chopped
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 pickle spear, minced
1 tsp pickling liquid from the pickle jar
salt & pepper to taste (might not need any salt because of pickle and capers - taste first then season)

Mix together all of the ingredients and let sit in fridge for at least an hour before serving.  

Panko Breaded Fish Fillets
Original Recipe

1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2-1 cup panko bread crumbs (I have used whole wheat panko in the past and they are great - I couldn't find them at the store this time around)
1 egg, beaten
1 T water
couple dashes of hot sauce
1 - 2lbs of cod fillets (or haddock works well too) - I used cod because it was on sale, and I used a recommended 1.3 lbs to serve 2 adults and a toddler

Create a breading station next to the stove like the one pictured below.  Flour, salt, and pepper in one bowl (mix to combine), egg wash in another bowl, (egg, water, hot sauce, beaten together), and panko breadcrumbs on another. 

Cut fish into individual pieces (mine was one HUGE fillet, I cut it into 7 rather equal size pieces).   Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat the pan with olive oil.  I don't measure the olive oil must use just enough oil so that the panko doesn't burn, but not too much.  I would say I use 2 T per batch of fish, and add a little more after I flip them.   Dip fish into flour, egg, and then panko.  Place into the pan and "fry" for 2-3 min before flipping it over (the pieces in my first batch, pictured below, were slightly thicker than the other pieces so they took 3-5 min on each side).

Flip the fish and let cook another 2-3 min or until fish easily flakes apart.  You can usually tell from pushing on it with your finger.  If its still firm, then it needs more cooking time.  If you can push easily, then its probably done.  Again, if its a thicker piece of fish it may take longer.  Also, you may need to add a little more olive oil after flipping.  If the pan is too dry then your breading will burn before the fish is cooked through.

Place fish on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the access oil, (shouldn't be much).  Serve with a side of hand-cut seasoned baked fries, low-cal coleslaw, and tartar sauce.  Yummy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Weekend Pancakes

We have a weekend tradition of cooking pancakes and bacon (or sausage) for breakfast one day.  We love big breakfasts, and with two little ones and a mommy who loves to cook, its just easier and healthier to enjoy it at home.  I can control the ingredients, the cooking method, and I tend to eat less because I create my portion size.  And who said you can't have chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast?  When I mentioned that to the toddler this morning, he couldn't wait to help me make them.  He usually scarfs up the regular pancakes, but today he waited patiently for his chocolate chip ones to be ready.  So cute!  He even ate leftovers for snack - and I let him because they had no sugar, flax seeds, and all the other healthful ingredients listed in the name below.  He hears "chocolate" and thinks dessert.  Its a win-win. 

Making your own pancake batter is easier than I thought, and I'm new at it.  Once I read the ingredients in pancake mix (gross) I told myself I would never go back.  I hope you give one or both recipes a try at home.

Happy Cooking!

The whole wheat buttermilk pancakes

The whole wheat oatmeal banana chocolate chip pancakes

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes
I started using half whole wheat flour in my pancakes without telling my husband and we have never looked back.  He doesn't seem to know the difference, so why should I tell him?

1 cup of all purpose flour - I use 1/2 cup of unbleached, 1/2 cup of whole wheat
1 T sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
2 T oil  (I use canola, but coconut or olive oil would be fine too)
1 cup of buttermilk (you can substitute "sour" milk by adding 1 T of vinegar to the milk and allowing it to rest for 5 minutes.  I did this today because my grocery store was all out of buttermilk.  The buttermilk or vinegar is the reactant with the baking powder that puffs the pancakes up.  If you skip it all together, you will have flat pancakes - no big deal)

Combine the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the wet ingredients and stir just until moistened (batter will be a little lumpy).  Don't over mix.  Add additional buttermilk to thin the batter, if necessary.

Spray a hot skillet or griddle with cooking spray.  Drop about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  (flip when the pancakes have bubbly surface and edges are slightly dry).  Serve with maple syrup of your choice - we like the real deal over here.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Recipe from

1 very ripe medium banana, mashed
1 tsp baking powder
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flaxseed meal or ground flaxseed + 2.5 T water, allow to rest for 5 min)
pinch salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 T almond butter
1 T canola oil
3 T almond milk (or substitute other milk)
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2-3 T semisweet mini chocolate chips (we only used 2 T, but original recipe recommended 3T)

Make the flax egg and set aside.  Mash the banana with a fork or potato masher.  Combine flax egg, banana, baking powder, salt, vanilla, almond butter, oil, and milk.  Stir to combine well.  Add the flour and oats and only mix until moistened, don't over mix.  Add mini chocolate chips and stir slightly. 

Cook on griddle or skillet (sprayed with cooking spray) over medium heat for 2-3 min on each side, or until browned.  Serve as is or with a little maple syrup.

Chocolate chip on the left, buttermilk on the right

And the coveted chocolate chip pancakes - they really do taste more like cookies than pancakes.  Very rich and delicious.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki

I don't know if it's chicken teriyaki or teriyaki chicken, all I know is that it's delicious! My version is based on the recipe below, (sorry for posting the wrong link earlier this week - that recipe is not for the crockpot), with some minor changes made.

Easy to throw together in the crockpot, and healthier than take-out, this dish was a success. My 3 year old helped me measure all the ingredients, the rice cooker helped with the brown rice, and I did a quick fresh vegetable stir-fry. The trick was to set aside some of the chicken for the kiddos before I thickened up the sauce, (my son isn't in to sauces or condiments and the baby doesn't need them). Everyone enjoyed this meal, including baby girl who gobbled up the zucchini, carrots, chicken, and rice. But again, she eats everything. Back to the chicken teriyaki - Who doesn't love a meal that can please everyone???  Next time I make this, I will try it with only 1/4 cup of sugar (to make it a little healthier) and substitute rice wine vinegar instead of apple cider.  I will also make a double batch - this was so good and it was almost all gone between the 4 of us.  Give it a try!

Happy cooking!

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki

1.5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5-6) with all the fat trimmed off
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
5 T chicken stock
4 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly ground ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
pepper to taste
Cornstarch Slurry (equal parts cornstartch and water - this is what makes it thick & luxurious like you would get in a restaurant.  I used 2 T of each)

Mix together sugar, soy sauce, chicken stock, vinegar, ginger and garlic in the bottom of your crock pot.  Place the chicken in and sprinkle with pepper.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  Remove chicken from the crockpot and pour sauce into a pan on the stove top.  Add the cornstartch slurry to the sauce and boil until thickened, about 5-10 min.  It will coat a spoon and intensify the flavor.  In the meantime,  shred the chicken (put any aside for your kids if you don't want sauce on their chicken) and add the chicken back into the sauce once it thickens up.  I served the chicken over brown rice with a simple stir-fry on the side.  I just wish it made more!  It was so yummy!!!

Some quick stir-fried veggies: broccoli, red peppers, carrots and zucchini with a little fresh ginger and garlic

So yummy!  Definitely better than some take-out I've had.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Turkey Meatballs

There is nothing more comforting on a freezing cold winter's day than a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.  My lightened up version is delicious and I promise you won't miss the red meat at all.  My husband LOVES my turkey meatballs, and that's saying a lot since he would probably eat a big fat steak every night if he had his way.  Plus this is a dinner the entire family will enjoy!

This is my own recipe for turkey meatballs, based on lots of experimentation and watching my grandmother make them over the years.   I also bake mine which saves a lot of calories.  I often make my own sauce too, but today the kiddos were both fighting naps all afternoon, so the jarred variety just had to do.  I used Bertolli's Marinara with Burgundy Wine, but if you are looking for a quick recipe for homemade sauce, visit an earlier posting I did:
You'll notice I've changed my meatball recipe since then, and that previous recipe is for the crockpot.  Cooking sauce low and slow all day is amazingly scrumptious and highly recommended if you can throw it in there before you start your busy day.   For this recipe, I let my meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 3 hours through the late afternoon.  Tonight I served the meatballs with barilla plus pasta and a huge green salad.  If you haven't tried the line of Bolthouse Farms dressing (found in the refrigerated section), please do.  They are the best tasting, low calorie dressings I've had.  And they don't replace the fat with lots of sugar.

So anyway, back to the meatballs.  They were a huge hit, as usual.  I think a few quotes I heard at the dinner table were, "Solid!" and "That was some good stuff!".  I rest my case.  Give my Turkey Meatballs a try - I would love to hear back from you. 

Happy Cooking!

Turkey Meatballs
2 slices of whole wheat bread (I had Sara Lee's this week cause it was on sale)
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 pkg ground turkey (mine was 20.8 oz)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  (Easy cleanup - one less pan to wash).  In a medium sized bowl, place the two slices of bread and pour the milk on top.  Let the milk soak into the bread for 3-5 min, moving the bread around if necessary so every part is saturated.  Add the egg, cheese, and spices.  Mix to combine with a fork, breaking the bread up, so it looks like the picture below.  Kind of a wet glob, but I promise it is what keeps the lean meat moist and flavorful. 

The meatball "seasoning"

Then add the turkey meat and mix just until combined - do not over mix.  Form the meat mixture into golf ball sized meatballs.   I usually get about 15 meatballs.

The meatballs before the oven.

Bake the meatballs at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  When they come out, they will look like the picture below.  I usually wipe them on a paper towel before adding to the sauce.

And once they are added to the sauce, as pictured above, simmer for 30 minutes to several hours, depending on how much time you have.  Yummy!!!

We had our meatballs and sauce over some whole grain spaghetti with a huge green salad.  Enjoy!
I love salad!  I have at least 1 a day
Time to eat!  I gotta run...until next time :)

Cold weather = indoor exercise

Between the cold front moving through this week and the occasional snow fall, living in New England during the winter means exercising indoors sometimes. 

I can walk or run in 35 or 40 degrees, but 20? Or 10 with a wind chill of -6???  No thanks. Baby girl doesn't need that either. So I used my group exercise teaching experience and created a couple cardio workouts to do at home, any time. Today I share them with you.

As always, please consult a doctor before beginning any new fitness routine. Warm up your body for about 5 min by marching in place, arm circles, step touch, grapevines, and other low impact movements.  If your workout includes some kickboxing (which a few below do), then also warm up with a few easy punches and kicks. Towards the end of your warm-up, throw in some jumping jacks for good measure.

Happy fitness!!!

Cardio Workout #1: this entire workout (with warm-up) should take you about 40-45 min
10 min on a bike, treadmill, or elliptical machine
20 jumping jacks
30 jumping jacks
20 squats
15 forward lunges on each side (15 with right leg forward, 15 with left leg)
15 burpees
20 push ups
20 tricep dips
30 sec jump rope
20 pliƩ squats
15 side lunges (15 on right side, 15 on left side)
10 more min on bike, treadmill, or elliptical
Abs: 30 each crunches, v-sit ups, Russian twists
5 min Stretching

Cardio Workout #2:  30 minutes of cross training with 3 different 10 min workouts.  Do them in any order, or do only 1 or 2 if you are in a pinch for time.  10 minutes is better than nothing!

The Stair-Climber - use any staircase to complete this, 12-15 steps is ideal.  You'll also need a stop watch to keep track of the time.
 1) Walk up and down the stairs for 2 min
 2) Walk up 2 steps at a time (AKA skipping a step), kicking the opposite leg back squeezing your bum.  Walk back down.  Do this for 1 min
 3) Run up, walk down for 1 min
 4) Face to the right, place your left foot on the first step, raising your right leg out to the side and lowering to the same step.  Repeat to the top and walk down for 1 minute.
 5)To the same but facing left for 1 min.
 6) Run up the steps 2 at a time and walk down for 1 min.
 7) repeat #2 & 3
 8) walk up and down for 1 min

The total-body no weights needed workout - you'll need a stop watch to keep track of time.
 1) Jog or march in place for 30 seconds while circling your arms overhead and down.
 2) Plie Jump - with feet wider than shoulder width apart, do a plie squat.  Then pulse three times and on the third pulse, jump up in the air.  Bend knees into a plie squat again as you land.  Repeat for 1
 3) 1 min of jogging or marching
 4) Alternating front lunges for 45 seconds, then do 15 sec of jumping lunges.  Be sure to land with knee over ankle, not beyond it.  Use your arms to help give you momentum.
 5) 1 min of jumping jacks
 6) 1 min of squat thrusts
 7) 1 min of marching or jogging
 8) 1 min of mountain climbers
 9) 1 min of jump rope
10) 1 min of marching or jogging
Repeat if you want to create a 20 or 30 minute workout.

Kickboxing- you'll need a stop watch again.
 1) 10 small arm circles forward, 10 small arm circles backward, 10 small squats, 10 front punches (10 each arm), 10 knee lifts (10 each side)
 2) jump rope for 1 min
 3) Begin in boxer's stance with right side facing forward.  Jab right and left cross (punch with your right arm, then punch across your body with your left arm, pivoting on your left foot).  Do twice, jump to face the opposite direction, and repeat with left jab, right cross.  Repeat punching and jumping sequence for 1 min.
 4) Right kick forward, left kick backward for 30 seconds.  Then switch, left kick forward, right kick backward for 30 seconds.
 5) Squats for 1 min
 6) repeat #2-5
 7) 1 min jumping jacks

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Enchilada Bake

Okay, wholly yumminess!  We love Mexican and Tex-mex food, but its hard to find an out of the ordinary somewhat healthy dish.  I came across a recipe via pinterest that inspired me to create this.  A one dish wonder that tastes just like enchiladas, but has lots of added veggies for flavor and health.   I changed hte recipe A LOT, added a ton of spices and more veggies.  Plus my husband hates zucchini and yellow squash - I took the squash out, kept the zucchini, but grated it so fine he never knew it was in there (until he reads this -Ha!).  He only commented on seeing spinach, which he loves.  I thought the flavors were spot on and the hubby really liked it - even went back for seconds.  I hope you give it a whirl and enjoy it as much as we did!
Happy Cooking!

Chicken Enchilada Bake
Based on a recipe found at
For the meat:
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder (spicier and smokier than regular chili powder)
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic
1/2 cup water
For the vegetables:
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup finely shredded zucchini
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1/3 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed out
1/2 tsp salt
other additions to the one dish wonder:
3/4 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
2 10oz cans of enchilada sauce (read the ingredients and find one with no artificial ingredients or MSG - yes, many of hte major Mexican food brands put MSG in their stuff.  Yuck!)
1 cup Mexican style shredded cheese
6 Corn tortillas,  (mine were about 6 inches in diameter - if yours are smaller you may need more), 3 cut in half, 3 remaining whole

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the oil to coat the pan.  Add the zucchini, mushrooms, red pepper, onion and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are cooked all the way through, about 5-7 min.  Add the spinach, stir, and allow it to warm up, about 1-2 min.

The veggies before...

The veggies after.
Pour the cooked veggies onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any access moisture. Using the same skillet, add another teaspoon of olive oil and the ground chicken.  Break it up as it cooks so that it is in very small pieces, much like taco meat.  After the chicken is thoroughly cooked, add the spices as listed along with the water.  This allows for even distribution of the spices (I found that they stuck to whatever pieces of meat they were sprinkled on if you don't add the water).

Chicken with spices...good enough for a tortilla now.
Once the water has evaporated, (as pictured above), turn off the heat.  Add back the veggies and then the greek yogurt.  Stir until combined.

I could eat this as is.  So good!
Take an 8 by 8 inch pan and spray it with cooking spray.  Pour a little of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan and layer with t2 of the corn tortillas, as shown below.

One whole tortilla on the middle, 2 halves on each side to ensure that every bite has some tortilla goodness.

Continue to layer chicken veggies mixture, enchilada sauce, tortillas, chicken veggie mixture, enchilada sauce, tortillas, chicken veggie mixture (yes, this is the 3rd and final time), the rest of the enchilada sauce, and ALL of the cheese on the top. 
This is what it should look like before it goes into the oven.

And here's a side view of the layers.  I was afraid it was too much sauce, but it wasn't.  It all soaks in perfectly.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheese is melty.  Let rest for 15 min before you slice into it.  So good!  Another one for the dinner rotation. 

As you can see, it holds together well and isn't runny at all.  The resting time does the trick!

Until next time, Happy Cooking!